Well, if an Olympic Tri isn’t tough enough, what I just got done with will make it so. Thinking it would be fun to take it easy and play in the dirt on the fat tire bike I called my buddy Tim, my highly advanced mountain biking friend, to see if he had anything going on this evening so we could maybe squeeze in a 13 mile lap around the Island Lake mountain bike trail. Simple enough and certainly not anything too tough, even at the speeds that we can achieve on that track. He suggested a change though, a trip out to Holdridge Lakes mountain bike trail… I’ve never ridden Holdridge but it’s incredibly popular in my neck of the woods because its three trails range from short and simple to long and insane – and it’s close to home. I’d never ridden there but I was really fired up to check it out so the plans were made, time set and I set out to meet him there.
I arrived a little early and got set up. Tim arrived a little late and had to deal with a disc brake issue right off the bat. Once that was tended to we started on the easy North loop to get me acclimated to the park. It was an easy 2 mile loop and we got through it in just over 11:30. Next up was the West loop – what they tout as an intermediate loop. Calling that track intermediate is somewhat of an understatement. You’d be better off trying to insist that Lake Superior is a nice little pond.
It was on within 20 feet of entering the 5-1/2 mile loop and there were no breaks, no nice long stretches where you could just cruise. There were a few places that looked like fun places to get a little air – until you looked up and realized that if you’d try, you’d be going back to remove parts of your scalp from a low hanging tree branch across the trail. Every climb – and there were eleven huge climbs in the 3-1/2 mile loop (I cheated and cut out the lake loop and the technical loop) and every single one was marred with roots and rocks that made finding a line difficult at best – on one section of the largest climb, there was a 1-1/2′ tall root stretched out across the entire path – on close inspection (I dismounted and walked over it) I swear I saw blood stains on it. The downhills offered no solace as well. The easy one’s were choked with sand and the hard drops were just as rocky as the climbs.
There wasn’t a break on the whole loop. I’ve never worked so hard to cover such a short distance… I averaged somewhere near 7 mph! So now I’m back home – and I’m beat and beat up.
I’m telling you folks, my Tri tomorrow just got interesting.
A couple of weeks ago I had a new small chainring installed on my road bike, an original spec Shimano Ultegra 30 tooth, to replace an aftermarket Salsa 26 tooth that the previous owner of the bike had installed. I do understand why the previous owner installed the smaller chain ring – the 30 tooth leaves a little to be desired interms of “granny gear-ishness”. Even though there’s a 12 tooth difference between the small and middle rings, the 26 tooth ring was a lot easier to pedal with on a big climb – the only problem was that the 26 tooth couldn’t be made to work with the 42 tooth middle ring, the 52 tooth big ring and the front derrailieur – Ultegra components all around, no off brand stuff. God knows, not only did I try, the owner of the bike shop that I frequent gave it a go for about a half an hour… Eventually I ended up locking the low ring out with the set screw because every time I shifted from the small ring to the middle ring the chain would drop into the bottom bracket – and shifting out of that whilst slow pedaling only worked on occasion.
The scenario that brought all of this about occurred on a group ride. After pushing hard to keep out and being quite gassed heading up a steep hill, I accidentally shifted down to the small ring instead of up to the big ring… It was my first or second attempt at the group ride and I was obviously quite green. I had tried like hell to stick with the main group but ended up falling off the back to a small four rider group. At the crest of a hill, quite beat, I wanted to shift to the big ring to use the downhill to spin back up – I missed the outside upshift brake lever, hitting the inside downshift lever and bam… when I tried to shift to the middle ring the chain dropped and I had to hop off the bike to reset it, then catch back up.
So, knowing that we visit the mountains almost every year, coupled with the fact that I hate having a top notch bike that doesn’t work perfectly, I decided it needed to be fixed. I took it to the shop but did all the work myself under Matt’s watchful eye, though Matt did the major adjustments himself.
Now I don’t know if there’s anything to this, but he had that thing shifting perfectly on the stand. As soon as I took it out on the road, I had all kinds of trouble shifting. I had to loosen the cable tension on the rear deraillieur by a half a turn and the front was way off. I don’t know if these things operate differently under load or what, but he flipped through those gears lightning fast on the stand (several times), but on the road it was utterly not cool. I adjusted the front close with a half a turn on the out set screw and then a couple half turns on the barrel adjuster. Yesterday, on mile 12 of my 16 mile ride, I decided to see how everything up front worked to make sure I had it right before heading down to the mountains. It was closer, but still off. I did the last few quarter turns of the barrel adjuster on the bike, while riding down the road and finally have it absolutely perfect.
So here’s the trick… I had a clue as to what I was doing, it just wasn’t a big one. If it won’t shift to the bigger ring, loosen the cable, if it won’t shift down, tighten the cable – that’s not rocket science, but when you start throwing in set screw adjustments, it starts getting messy for me. I fell back on Matt’s rule – just start tinkering. Either I’ll fix it or I’ll break it. If I fix it, great. If I break it I can take it in to get fixed.
Fortunately the set screw adjustments that I made were right on so as I was riding down the road I twisted the barrel adjuster on the down tube. See below:
Now at first, I made the mistake of turning the barrel the wrong way because I had to account for it facing me – it’s still rightie-tightie, but riding on the bike, the barrel is reversed. I had a feeling I would screw something up, so I checked the tension on the cable by hand first, then moved the barrel and checked the tension again – it obviously got tighter, so I went back the 1/4 turn and then one more and checked the tension to make sure it was looser. Then I tried shifting. I just loosened the barrel 1/4 turn until the derailleur hit on all three chain rings – then I went one more 1/4 turn and it was perfect.
I’ll be heading out on a fairly long, easy ride today (35 miles, maybe more if I get the itch) with plenty of hills so I’ll be able to check out my handy work under riding conditions.